My grandmother is turning 90 this month. The year she was born Babe Ruth becomes all time home run champ, Charlie Chaplin had a movie in theaters, the most expensive automobile was a Heine-Velox at a cost of about $20,000 and Winston Churchill became the British, minister of Colonies. Wow! That’s some history!
That alone is enough to warrant a celebration; however, she is more than just an age to me. She is Grandma Kushman. Please let me take a moment a share just a bit about Grandma Kushman.
I have never been in Grandma and Papa’s house when it wasn’t immaculate. Not only did she have a place for everything, but every thing was always in its place. She even noticed when one of her grandchildren tore a small piece of wallpaper off the wall of her guest bathroom; I promise it wasn’t me. There was a room with artificial light for her African violets which she would grow and even give as precious gifts. The kitchen cupboards were so organized, only Grandma was permitted to put dishes away. A finished basement has always been associated with the blessings of Grandma and Papa’s house. The living room had two prominent items of emotional significance to me: the Papa chair where only Papa was permitted to sit and Grandma’s bag of yarn beside the sofa where she sat and crocheted Afghans for each of her grandchildren. I remember sitting beside her as she would skillfully twist the yard between her well-manicured fingers. There was one thing about the living room, however, which frightened me. Behind one of the guest chairs in the living room, Grandma had two little ceramic gnomes. They looked so life-like. I tried to ignore that they were there, so I’d stare at the towering grandfather clock when I’d pass them. Grandma and Papa’s house didn’t just have furnishings, it had memories.
The aroma of a meal baking, simmering or cooking in the kitchen usually greeted us as we’d enter. As an elementary child, I remember going to Grandma and Papa’s house for supper on Sunday and having giant, home-made cream puffs. I remember bragging to my friends at school that I had dessert for a meal. Oh, and Grandma’s canned dill pickles! She usually grew her own dill and cucumbers and then can them in the fall. As a child, I took them for granted. It took a few store-bought pickles before I could truly appreciate Grandma’s pickles. And then there was the caramel jar. She had a clear glass jar of Kraft caramels on her kitchen counter; it was one of the most tempting things for this grandchild to refrain from. However, once a day with my parent’s permission, she usually allowed me to have one. Oh, did I savor that creamy, sweet flavor. She was one of the greatest cooks I had ever known. I have never had any stew, chicken and dumplings, cookies or pies any better than Grandma’s. Her culinary skills produced delectable foods which allowed her four children and their families to gather around great memory-making meals.
Most Sunday afternoons in the autumn and winter, Grandma and Papa’s living room was filled with the sound of the Greenbay Packers games. I didn’t know much about football when I was a kid, but Grandma’s comments at the players and coaches let me know if they were doing well or letting her down.
The last time I was able to see Grandma was just after Papa had a stroke. My family was planning to move to California the following week, so we hopped in the car and drove up to the north-eastern most point of Wisconsin to say good-bye. It was a difficult visit as Papa seemed so far from us; however, I do remember the steadfast love that Grandma had for my Papa overshadowed even the most difficult memory, her tender touch and her loving glance. I remember her comment on the phone after Papa had passed. “I loved him. I love him. He was my life.” Grandma’s precious love for Papa is the one treasure I remember most and which accompanies all other memories I have of her. What a legacy!